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Cerebral Palsy sufferer George Roberts joins Open Youth orchestra playing clarion with eye movement

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:04 26 October 2018

George Roberts performs on laptop clarion with the South West Open Youth Orchestra. Picture: OpenUpMusic

George Roberts performs on laptop clarion with the South West Open Youth Orchestra. Picture: OpenUpMusic

OpenUpMusic

A man with severe cerebral palsy having long-term therapy at an east London gym has struck a chord in the world of orchestral music playing a digital clarion with eye movement.

Receiving Royal Philarmonic Society award in 2017 for the South West Open Youth Orchestra. Picture: Simon Jay PriceReceiving Royal Philarmonic Society award in 2017 for the South West Open Youth Orchestra. Picture: Simon Jay Price

George Roberts, a member of Ability Bow gymnasium, has joined the newly-formed National Open Youth Orchestra, the first in the world to be led by young disabled musicians.

The 24-year-old from old Ford Road in Bow, began his musical journey at the National Star college in Cheltenham after being selected to perform on BBC Radio 3.

“He’s is doing something he loves, thanks to those who have been able to bring it out of him,” his mum Eileen said. “George is developing confidence and is more mobile, thanks to the gym and the orchestra.”

He received a ‘learning and participation’ award from the Royal Philharmonic Society last year on behalf of the South West Open Youth orchestra which he joined in 2015.

George at his weekly therapy session at Ability Bow gym. Picture: Ability BowGeorge at his weekly therapy session at Ability Bow gym. Picture: Ability Bow

The award recognised the orchestra opening the door to young disabled musicians aged 11 to 25 to develop their skills through one-to-one lessons, group rehearsals and performances. 

“My son is living and breathing his passions,” Eileen added.

“Performing with the orchestra and his sessions at the gym in Bow, which is a bonus being down the road from us, has improved his physical and emotional wellbeing.”

Members of the new Open Youth orchestra perform with digital instruments that don’t need 10 dexterous fingers, as well as traditional instruments like the harp, violin and French horn.  

Its director Doug Bott said: “George is a great ensemble player whose determination to succeed is an example to us all.”

George began therapy at Ability Bow in St Stephen’s Road, earlier this year and now attends weekly long-term sessions with instructor Patrick Trotman.

Patrick praised his determination for developing “incredible physical and mental strength to be able to do what he does in the orchestra”.  

The clarion for computer uses technology such as Eye-gaze and SmartNav to enable physical movements from head, hands and eyes to control the music notes. George uses the clarion on his laptop connected to a special ‘assistive’ dot placed in the middle of his glasses so that he can play with forehead movement. 

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